No Jon Stewart isn’t grandstanding; he’s doing what’s right (Opinion)
Jon Stewart spoke before a congressional subcommittee Tuesday and skewered the government for not re-upping the funding for the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. Only about half the members of the subcommittee even bothered showing up. Meanwhile the rest of the room was filled with first responders who did a harder and more heroic job in the months that followed the tower attacks than that subcommittee ever will. Many of them are sick and dying yet they made the trip to Washington, D.C. while some committee members wouldn't even make the trip down the hallway.
Some of us at the radio station were blown away by Jon Stewart's many years of commitment to this issue and by the passion and grace with which he delivered a fiery and valid speech. Some others at the radio station today are skewering Jon Stewart, calling him Hollywood elite and saying that he's "grandstanding on the backs of first responders," even going so far as to say "shame on Jon Stewart." Sometimes I truly despise my co-workers.
For those claiming this money will surely arrive and that Stewart is just looking for attention, please read this piece from nymag.com. It's a primer of sorts on the history of the fight to secure funding and help for those 9/11 first responders. The history is not pretty as some at this station would have you believe.
First of all, Jon Stewart didn't just show up to Congress yesterday like some Johnny-come-lately attention whore looking to boost his image. He has advocated for and fought for the first responders for many, many years. Well over a decade. He was born and raised in New Jersey where some 700 families lost a loved one in the attacks. He was deeply affected by the attacks just the same as us non-famous folks. He knows the first responders are the real heroes.
In fact, Stewart has said, "I don't have the depth of character that these guys have. As I said to one of the people down there, all I have is a camera and an inherent sense of dickishness. If that can be useful in any way, I'm honored that that monkey trick can get them some attention."
That's a Jersey street way of saying using a bully pulpit. Jon Stewart is looking for attention, but not for himself. He's looking for attention for people who he truly knows answered a call that few would and got America back on its feet again. He's fought for them for years. Back in 2010 he dedicated an entire show to just this issue. In short, he actually does care.
For those calling him Hollywood elite, you're playing pathetic partisan politics with the lives of people who did a job too horrifying to imagine. If the money is there and the funding renewed, it is in part due to the efforts of people like Jon Stewart and not in spite of him.
When the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act finally passed, it passed despite a filibuster effort by Republicans who had problems with it being too costly. The bill came out in 2006 but wasn't signed into law until 2011.
It was $4.3 billion. For treatment and medical benefits for emergency workers and survivors of 9/11. For heroes. Does anyone remember former NJ Gov. Christine Todd Whitman was at the EPA then and claimed one week after the attacks that the air was safe to breathe? It was not. Does anyone remember that those fires continued to burn for months and in that smoke was asbestos, lead, pulverized concrete and highly toxic substances? By 2004 10,000 workers were already suffering illnesses, long before the passage of the Zadroga Act.
At one point in the funding struggles a lawmaker contacted Jon Stewart to ask why first responders were upset that a certain lawmaker was trying to tie the funding legislation in with an oil export bill and another trying to use it as leverage for Medicare cuts. Stewart answered, "They're disheartened because they've spent years roaming the hallways of this place to fight for something that they shouldn't have to be the advocates for."
The guy's answer to that? "Well, you know, that's how sausage gets made."
Jon's response, "But here's what you're forgetting: They don't know they're sausage. They're people."
Trump's border wall will cost billions more than the funding allocated for these brave men and women. If we cannot take care of the people who were sent in to pick up the pieces after the worst attack on our soil in our country's history then we might as well close up shop and categorize this dream called America an abject failure.
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